AT A FUNERAL - Graham Lee Hemminger Poems


Poems » graham lee hemminger » at a funeral


I loved her too, this woman who is dead.
    Look in my face. I have a right to go
And see the place where you have made her bed
    Among the snow.

I loved her too whom you are burying.
    I have a right to stand beside her bier,
And to my handful of the dust I fling,
    That she may hear.

I loved her; and it was not for the eyes
    Which you have shut, nor for her yellow hair,
Nor for the face which in your bosom lies.
    Let it lie there!

Nor for the wild-birds' music of her voice,
    Which we shall hear in dreams till we too sleep;
Nor for the rest, which made the world rejoice,
    The angels weep.

It was not for the payment of sweet love,
    Though love is often straitened for a kiss,
Nor for the hope of other joys above,
    But only this,

That she had laid her hand upon my heart
    Once in the summer time when we were young,
And that her finger-tips had left a smart,
    And that my tongue

Had spoken words which might not be unspoken
    Lest they should make a by-word of love's truth,
And I had sworn that love should be the token
    Of my youth.

And so I gave her all, and long ago
    The treasure of my youth was put in pawn;
And she was little richer that I know
    When that was gone.

But I have lived a beggar since that day
    And hide my face it may be from men's eyes;
For often I have seen them shrink away,
    As in surprise

That such a loathsome cripple should be found
    To walk abroad in daylight with the rest,
And scarce a rag to cover up the wound
    Upon his breast.

Yet no man stopped to ask how this might be,
    Or I had scared them, and let loose my tongue,
How I had bought myself this misery
    When I was young.

Yet I have loved her. This must be my pay,
    The pension I have earned me with these tears;
The right to kneel beside her grave to-day,
    Despite these years,

With all her kisses burning on my cheek,
    As when I left her and our love was dead,
And our lips trembled though they did not speak,
    The night I fled;

The right to bid you stand aside, nor be
    A witness of our meeting. Did you love
In joy as I have loved in misery?
    You did not prove

Your love was stronger than the strength of death,
    Or she had never died upon your hand.
I would have fed her breathing with my breath;
    I would have fanned

A living wind of Heaven to her lips;
    I would have stolen life from Paradise.
And she is dead, and you have seen eclipse
    Within those eyes.

If I could know that you had loved her well;
    If I could hold it for a certainty
That you had sold your life as I did sell;
    If I could see

The blackness of your soul, and with my tongue
    Taste the full bitterness of tears unshed;
If I should find your very heart was wrung
    And maimed and dead;

If I should feel your hand's grasp crumble mine,
    And hug the pain when I should grasp in turn;
If I could dip my fingers in the brine
    Of eyes that burn;

If I could hear your voice call back the dead
    With such a mighty cry of agony
That she should turn and listen in the bed
    Where she doth lie,

And all the heavens should together roll,
    Thinking they heard the angel's trumpet tone,
I could forget it that you bought a soul
    Which was my own;

I could forget that she forgot her vows,
    That aught was bartered for the wealth of love;
I could untell the story of my woes,
    Till God above

Should hold her guiltless and condone the wrong
    Done to His justice; I could take your hand
And call you brother, as we went along
    To take our stand

Before His judgment-seat with her again
    Where we are hurrying, -- for we could not keep
Our place unchallenged in the ranks of men
    Who do not weep.